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Neolithic ‘Polishing Boulder’ Discovered in England

Used to sharpen axes, the 5,000-year-old polissoir is only the second of its kind ever found.


Ancient stone once used to sharpen ax heads
Ancient polissoir | Historic England Archive

Polissoirs were used by Neolithic groups as tools to sharpen axes - and although the tools have been commonly found across France, this is only the second undisturbed polissoir (a French word meaning 'polisher') found in its original position in all of England.


The polissoir is more than 5,000 years old, placing it squarely in the Neolithic period, which spanned from around 4300 to 2000 B.C.E. At the time, stone axes were critical tools for early farming groups.


“These stones rarely survive, but would have been extremely important to Neolithic people, as without axes they could not have cleared woodland and farming would have been impossible,” says Jim Rylatt, who found it in The Valley of Stones nature reserve in Dorset, southern England.


Valley of Stones, Dorset
Valley of Stones | Historic England Archive

Neolithic axe heads were commonly made of materials like flint, volcanic tuff and granite. Although no axe heads have been found in the immediate vicinity, Historic England is launching a more extensive archaeological survey as a result of the find.


“This is a hugely exciting and rare discovery in this little understood historic landscape, which is giving us an opportunity to explore the use of the stone, and the communities who were using it,” says Sasha Chapman, inspector of ancient monuments at Historic England.

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